This Norman Rockwell look-alike, Brine Roasted Turkey will be an impressive centerpiece on your Thanksgiving table. This big, golden turkey is tender and juicy. The skin is so crisp you can almost hear it crackle when sliced.
Here is how we celebrate Thanksgiving this year and it all begins with a traditional brine for the big bird.
Brining is not just for turkeys though. We have brined whole chickens and chicken breasts, pork chops, pork roasts and fish. Brining, with either the wet or dry method will improve the flavor, moisture and texture. We have used and like both of the wet and dry brine methods.
Why Brine a Turkey?
The turkey will be moist, tender and flavorful. If you add herbs, spices and aromatics you have a flavor bonus. Brining will also enhance the juiciness of the turkey.
A wet brine is the traditional method of brining. A brine is a solution of salt and water made in a large enough container to hold the turkey and keep it submerged for a determined amount of time. Adding flavorful ingredients to the brine, such as herbs, spice and aromatics will enhance the flavor of the turkey.
Ideas for a Brine Solution:
- Apple Cider
- White Wine
- Fresh and dried herbs
- Fresh ginger slices
How to Construct a Brine:
In making the brine it is not the weight and size of the turkey that determines the amount of brine solution. It is the ratio of salt to water. We like a solution of three-quarters cup of regular table salt to one gallon of water. Kosher salt can also be used for a brine but since it has larger grains and is less dense it will take 1 cup kosher salt to equal the same amount of table salt.
There is a lot of salt in a wet brine and you would think the meat would be too salty. Fortunately, that is not the case and the meat will be well seasoned and flavorful.
With that being said, a heavily salty brine and brining for an extended time can make the meat too salty. For a wet brine, we like to use the brine-time ratio of one-hour for every two pounds of meat. The larger the turkey, the more time that it will require for the brine to be effective. Our 13-pound turkey brined for seven hours.
Things To Consider Before Choosing To Brine:
These are the brining downsides to consider before deciding to brine your turkey:
- Pre-planning for the brining time and the drying time for a crisp skin
- A large container filled with liquid and a big turkey is heavy.
- A large space is required in the refrigerator for eight to twenty-four hours.
- Stuffing the bird is not recommended as it will be too salty
- Drippings from the cooked turkey will be too salty for gravy.
Overcoming the Disadvantages of Brining a Turkey:
If the turkey is small enough, the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator is a brining option. A five-gallon bucket will hold a large turkey. We used a large 16-quart soup pot to brine our turkey and since we have an extra refrigerator we removed the shelves and stored the turkey in it to brine. An ice-chest is another alternative for the brining process just be sure check frequently to maintain a 40° temperature. Adding a bag of ice may be necessary. Make your favorite stuffing and bake it in a casserole dish. Use chicken stock and flavorings to make a gravy.
If you have never tried the wet brine method for your turkey this may be the Thanksgiving year for your adventure. One caveat….do not use turkeys that have been injected with any type of solution. This includes kosher and self-basting turkeys. Check the table on the wrapper to insure that it is a natural or heritage turkey.
Roasting the Brined Turkey:
Once the turkey has completed the brining time, rinse it thoroughly. If you like a crisp skin you will need to pat it dry with paper towels or set it into the refrigerator again, uncovered for several hours to air dry. When ready to cook, follow our recipe or use your favorite method of roasting.
Tip: Gravy For A Brine Roasted Turkey:
Buy a separate package of turkey parts, such as the leg-thigh quarters. Oil and season them and roast to a rich golden brown. Deglaze the pan with white wine and add chicken broth and a thickening. Voilà….flavorful turkey gravy! A time-saver is to make the gravy in advance and reheat it when ready to serve. It will keep several days in a covered container in the refrigerator.
More Recipes You Are Sure To Enjoy:
- Roast Turkey
- Ricotta Mashed Potatoes
- Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Caesar Dressing
- Copycat Costco Pumpkin Pie
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- 1 Turkey, 12 to 14 pounds, fresh or frozen
To Make the Brine:
- 1 cup table salt (or 1-1/2 cups kosher salt)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 gallon hot water
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1-1/2 gallons cold water
For the Aromatics:
- 1 large orange, thinly sliced
- 1 or 2 lemons, thinly sliced
- 3 or 4 bay leaves
Prepare the Turkey:
- Remove the giblet package from inside the cavity of the turkey and reserve for another use. If using a frozen turkey, thaw according to the instructions on the wrapper.
- Carefully inspect the skin of the turkey and remove any pin feathers that may have been left. Set the turkey aside while making the brine.
To Make The Brine:
- Using a stockpot or food storage container large enough to hold the turkey comfortably. Combine the water, salt, brown sugar and peppercorns over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve the salt. Remove the brine from the heat when all the salt has dissolved, cool to room temperature, then add the cold water.
- Add the orange and lemon slices and the bay leaves. Place the turkey, breast side down into the brine and submerge. Place an inverted dinner plate on top of the turkey to keep it submerged. If necessary place additional weights such as a large can of tomatoes on top of the plate to keep the turkey submerged.
- Cover the stockpot and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse the turkey well under cold running tap water. Be sure to rinse the inside of the cavity as also.
- Dry the outside of the turkey with paper towels, place on a large platter and refrigerate for 6 hours, or overnight to completely dry the outer skin. A dry skin will give you a crisp skin.
To Roast the Turkey:
- Preheat the oven to 425° F. Remove the two upper racks from the oven, leaving the bottom rack at its lowest level. Set a V rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
- Transfer the bird from the refrigerator to a workspace. Allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes while preparing it for roasting.
- Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Tuck the wings back and under. Stuff the breast and main cavities with quartered oranges, lemons and bunches of fresh herbs.
- Brush the entire outside of the turkey with olive oil and place on the V-rack with the breast up. (see Note #6)
- Insert a probe thermometer into the lower part of the thigh, without touching bone. Spray a piece of foil to fit the breast area and cover to protect from over-browning.
- Transfer the turkey to the oven and roast for 30 minutes at the 425°F, until the skin begins to brown and crisp.
- Reduce the heat to 325°F. and continue to roast. When the thermometer reads 170°F, about 2-1/2 hours, remove the turkey and transfer to a large serving platter. Do not tent. (see Note #7) Let the bird rest, for at least 30 minutes before carving and serving.
- Use only natural or heritage turkeys, fresh or frozen. Do not use a turkey that has been injected with any type of solution. This includes kosher and self-basting turkeys check the label on the wrapper.
- If you have a large turkey and need more brine than the recipe calls for to keep the turkey submerged, add additional brine at 1/4 cup table salt for every gallon of water. (or 1 cup kosher salt to 1 gallon of water)
- A large ice cooler can be used as long as the temperature can be maintained at 40°F
- Closable plastic bags filled with Ice can also be placed on the turkey to keep it submerged.
- A long, folded strip of aluminum foil placed on the V rack will serve as a sling to help lift and transfer the roasted turkey to a platter. Spray the sling with oil spray to prevent the turkey from sticking.
- A dry skin will make a crisp skin. If you plan to baste the turkey while roasting then the drying process is not necessary.
- To keep the roasted turkey skin crisp while resting, do not tent. Tenting with aluminum foil will cause steam and it will soften the skin of the turkey.
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Serving Size5 ounces
Amount Per ServingCalories 329 Total Fat 12.9g Saturated Fat 3.3g Cholesterol 163.7mg Sodium 931mg Carbohydrates 1.2g Fiber .03g Sugar 0.2g Protein 49.3g